Server Sense

IT managers find that server virtualization is one of the best ways to deliver more effective services at lower cost.

February 2011 E-newsletter

Server Sense

Management Tools Mature

The Capacity Plan

A Powerful Combination

By the end of 2009, Bob Allen's IT department for the city of South Bend, Ind., managed about 28 servers and planned to add another six or seven in 2010. With server sprawl, frequent technology updates and new applications constantly being developed, Allen knew he had to make a change.

"We were looking at a ton of server growth happening in the last two years, and I didn't see it slowing down any time soon,'' says Allen, director of IT for the city.

Today, by consolidating its data center with a NetApp storage area network and then virtualizing most of the servers, South Bend's physical servers have been reduced to four.

"As we see people consolidate, they're able to greatly improve utilization of those resources, so they have [fewer] idle resources in their data center, and this results in lower power and cooling costs," says Mark Bowker, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

Bob Allen says by combining server virtualization with a SAN, the city of South Bend, Ind., saves about $6,000 annually on power and cooling costs.

Photo: Stephen Hill

In South Bend, power costs for the data center were cut from $4,125 annually to $1,900, Allen says. And cooling costs decreased from $7,154 annually to $3,336 -- a total savings of about $6,000 a year.

"Now we can create a new server in matter of minutes," Allen says. "In the past, we'd have to order it -- and it would take weeks for it to arrive -- and then configure it and find a rack to put it in. Now we can build a virtual server in five minutes." The city has also created templates with software patches built in so they don't have to reinvent the wheel, he adds.

Attractive Alternative

In Middlesex County, N.J., server virtualization was eyed as an attractive way to deliver more cost-effective services with reduced budgets and resources.

CIO Khalid Anjum says continuity of operations and disaster recovery were also important considerations.

The percentage of total virtual machines expected to be running in a production environment within two years, compared with 39% today

SOURCE: Enterprise Strategy Group

"There's very little tolerance for systems not working" during an emergency, Anjum says.

Using VMware, Middlesex County went from almost 30 physical servers to six, Anjum says, noting that the county also installed the necessary storage systems and network infrastructure beforehand. IT also built an offsite disaster recovery area and replicated all the main servers to that location.

Now, Anjum says, the county can operate the network infrastructure more efficiently with reduced staff. "What would take hours to do now takes minutes,'' he says. "Of all the different technologies, we've found the ability to virtualize, secure and consolidate data systems across the enterprise at the server level to be the best fit."

Serving Virtualization

Here are some steps to consider as you begin the process of virtualizing your servers.

  • Optimize before you virtualize. Develop a schedule that lists which applications you want to virtualize now, next year and two years from now. The most successful organizations have a strategy for how their investment in virtualization will scale over time.
  • Buy the most capable servers you can afford. You may pay more for a high-end unit, but you will save money in the long run by virtualizing more servers on a unit with greater processing power and memory.
  • Budget for extensive upfront and ongoing IT training. This is a new computing environment, so you will need to train your people to manage and secure virtual servers.
  • Engage your staff. Successful virtualization projects require cooperation between different IT groups that might not interact often. Select cross-functional groups to train and work on projects together.
Jan 11 2011